Reglazing vs. Replacing Windows: What is Best for Your Home?
The Need for a New Window Look
Your home is your masterpiece. If you want to make a statement in your neighborhood, as well as to your guests and family, having clean, new, modern windows, is considered one of the top home improvement projects. This simple project can add to the energy efficiency of your entire home, as windows are one of the largest energy losers in a house. And modern looking windows have the power to give your house a sleek solid look.
Yet, many homeowners are hesitant to replace their windows, or even fix or upgrade them, due to fear of costs, and how much work it takes. In this article, we will quickly lay out the top ways windows can be upgraded in a home, and the benefits and advantages of each of them. We will give you a clear suggestion of what should be your choice, and how to move forward with your window upgrade.
The two paths are window reglazing, and window replacement. They are each functionally different, and have unique advantages.
What is Window Reglazing?
Reglazing windows involves removing one of the glass panes and replacing it with a new pane. In a typical older double-paned window, this can be done either on the inside or outside of the window. This is a common procedure done for broken windows that are not favorable for full replacement. This is especially true for historic gridded windows, in which a homeowner would want to keep the window for historic preservation, but simply repair one small window panel in the multi-panel window array.
Steps and materials involved in reglazing a window include:
- Disassembly of the frame that holds the glass panes
- Cutting and removal of the rubber seals or old compounds
- Removal of spacers and points
- Replacing new points and spacers
- Replacing the glass pane
- Installation of glazing compound or external seals
- Reassembling part of the frame if needed
While it may seem quite simple to reglaze, the cost and time is affected by the custom glass, ensuring the glass pane is nearly exact in size to the previous broken frame.
Why Window Reglazing is Not Ideal
Having a custom sized sheet of glass made or cut to the exact current window specifications can make the cost of reglazing comparable to simply replacing the window altogether.
Also, since all of these steps are typically done by hand, on-site, it is quite tedious, especially placement of spacers and points, glazing compound, and careful placement of the glass pane. It is like surgery, with great attention to detail and care. The slightest mistake can lead to either another broken new pane, or compromised air gap between the glass panes.
In addition, since windows typically have a wide varying degree of sizes, the glass pane often has to be custom ordered, shipped, and very carefully delivered.
Factory made full replacement windows, all assembled in a climate controlled environment, have the benefit of being shipped with the frame, and all elements assembled. The price difference becomes negligible. It simply isn’t worth the effort of reglazing.
In addition, there is a higher likelihood of having a drafty gap, or broken seal, due to everything happening on-site, in awkward positions. Wind, debris, difficult heights, all play a part in reglazing a window. And in some cases, the full window has to still be removed, for more stable access, creating all of the same work that would be required to simply replace it with a new one.
While the glass sheet used for reglazing may be 50% less costly than an entire window (approx. $300-$450 a window) (1), the added labor, shipping and care, brings the cost savings near zero. The homeowner is then stuck with new glass inside an old window frame. They simply have a repaired window.
What is the difference between reglazing and replacing?
In summary, reglazing replaces the glass pane and seals. It is simply a “repaired window”. Window replacement replaces the entire window. One only changes out part of the window, the other replaces the entire unit.
The main benefit of window reglazing is that it can potentially be less disruptive, since the base frame stays in place. Just the glass, seals and spacers are replaced. This is most helpful for retaining historic windows. But if you have a newer or modern house, this benefit is not important.
What is Window Replacement?
Window replacement is replacing windows by removing the old one and installing a new window. This involves these steps and materials:
- Removal of interior and exterior trim
- Cutting (if needed) wood buildout that is holding the raw window frame
- Popping out the old window
- Putting in the new window (with matching size)
- Filling in any gaps with shims, flashing or filler
- Re-installing the trim around the window
- These steps are assuming that the replacement window is the same size as the older one. Larger windows will likely require cutting out some of the opening more. Smaller windows will require fillers or shims.
While the steps involved may be more disruptive than reglazing, they both can be done in about the same time. And since window replacement uses a fully built window, labor is not as tedious and specialized. Many window replacement installers can install new windows throughout a house in a matter of hours.
Benefits of Window Replacement
Window replacement, in most situations, far exceeds the benefits of reglazing.
Using the latest technology in glass, films, spacers, and energy efficiency
Using gas-filled or vacuum sealed air gaps. Reglazing cannot do this. By purchasing a replacement window with Low-E argon or krypton gas fill, you can experience a 20-30% increase in efficiency.(2). These gas fills reduce temperature transfer between interior and exterior
Modern design - the clean, sleek, factory consistency of a new window can give your home a modern look.
Home value - By having fully new windows, rather than “repaired windows”, you can increase your home’s resale value, and recoup some or all of the costs.
Benefit from knowing you simply have newer windows. Whether it is the factory warranty, assurance, or peace-of-mind, new windows provide this value, that a repaired window simply doesn’t.
Choosing the Right Replacement Window Installer
If you have decided to move forward with replacing your old windows, go with a reputable window and door installer who has years of experience. They often can efficiently and quickly measure, order, deliver and install new windows, and the actual replacement can all occur in less than a day. You’ll have your old windows hauled away, and will benefit from completely brand new windows. Here are some suggestions during your search:
Look for installation companies that are full service: consultation, purchasing, selection, permitting, demo, install, cleanup and warranty.
Ask for multi-window discounts. You can save money by having multiple windows all done on the same day. It reduces the setup charge per install, and those savings can be passed on to you.
Look for installers that have their own installation staff, rather than hiring out to other contractors. They will take the best care of your home and project.
Ask if their prices match. If you find the same brand, model and size of window elsewhere, ask if they will honor the lowest price available elsewhere. Chances are, they will, and you will benefit from the full service.
Ask about their warranty. How long are parts covered? How long do they warranty their labor?
Stick with local. There are many national chains that don’t know the local area, and typically make large markups on the window and labor, while outsourcing the install job to contractors that are not focussed on window replacement; . . . meaning they will likely have to come back and fix a mistake; and you overpaid.
What You Need to Prepare for Window Replacement
While it is good to be familiar with the general dimensions of your windows, window replacement companies will want to come visit on-site to have a correct full measurement performed for each window you are replacing. That will give you the peace of mind that if there are any mistakes in the measurement, they will take care of it on their dollar.
The days leading up to the actual install, be sure that bushes are trimmed, and interior clutter is moved away, so that the window can be easily, safely and quickly replaced. While it can be a dusty job, most experienced window replacement companies have materials and protections to reduce the dust and debris, followed by proper cleanup.
While there are some special circumstances that may require reglazing of windows, by far, in most situations, replacing your windows altogether is the better option. You’ll have completely brand new windows, and benefit from the added energy efficiency, warranty and service, for years to come.